Today I bring you an old acquaintance, Ken Slesarik. You’ve met Ken before as a Guest Reader. Today I’m proud to bring him on as a Featured Guest and recent member of the cast in Honesdale at the Founders Poetry Workshop. Ken is known among friends and readers for his great ear for rhyme and wry humor. I’ll let Ken speak for himself.
1. How and when did you know you were a poet?
It was the summer of 2006 and I needed to give voice to my “imaginary friends.” Ha! That was a joke but in all sincerity, five and a half years ago I rediscovered poetry to deal with the constant pain and suffering after my ear drum shattered. I knew from that moment on I was a poet. See the July 7th 2010 post below under Ken Slesarik.
2. Describe your journey as a writer.
Early on I developed a real joy in the act of creating. The simple pleasure of coming up with something new and seeing it take shape is a reward in itself and has sustained me during the journey. I’ve also consistently taken steps toward improvement and remain very committed to reaching publication. I do fear the hazing and initiation process though. Nursing the welts from the towels of a David Harrison or a J. Patrick Lewis is something I approach with much trepidation.
3. Why are some people afraid of writing poetry?
With so many different poetic forms it can be difficult knowing where to start. The best way to overcome that fear is to dive in and write whatever is on your mind. That act will in turn beget other poems and as you begin to make distinctions in form and substance you become a better poet. I’m a special education teacher at an elementary school and I see that teachers are faced with curriculum and standardized testing pressures that leave writing poetry relegated to the back burner. I think it’s up to teachers to demystify the writing experience to make it accessible, less fearful and fun for the average student.
4. How can an emerging poet gain experience and confidence when it’s so hard to find publishers of poetry?
The magazine market works for some, but for me it distracts from the goal of being published in the book market. I’m realistic yet wildly passionate in this pursuit and it has lead to experience as well as confidence. Having a trusted peer group of writer friends is important as you share experiences and gain confidence together. Confidence also comes when you can look back and have enough references of writing something that worked. This makes it easier to take chances and try things such as reading your work publicly, perhaps even falling flat on your face. It’s important to keep learning and be humble but also to roar or at least meow on occasion because confidence is self generated.
5. What do you think is easier to write, verse or free verse?
I used to think if it’s free and they’re giving it away it must not have value and therefore be easy to write. I was wrong and I’m learning to appreciate free verse more. I still feel verse presents a more difficult challenge and is more difficult to do well. Interestingly enough, I think many people view free verse as more difficult to write as it’s more readily associated with academia whereas verse, especially humorous verse is often taken lightly and undervalued.
6. Why poetry? Why not stick with fiction or nonfiction? What attracts some writers to poetry?
Concise writing and finding the perfect words and cadence are very appealing to me, like solving a puzzle. Even though new ideas are sometimes few and far between I live for those moments when a crisp, original idea for a poem begins to form. I don’t sleep or eat and obsess over the smallest detail, perhaps reading the new poem aloud hundreds of times. It’s that feeling of exhilaration that attracts me to poetry.
7. How much does a children’s poet need to learn about the ground rules of poetry?
To become a better writer you definitely need to know the rules and to recognize when you break them, however, I think it’s a learning process and on one hand you need that structure but on the other I don’t ever let a rule get in the way of a good poem. By that I mean occasionally a poem will have an obvious strength that will justify a deviation from the rules. Besides don’t we all have poetic license? That reminds me mine expires on the 5th.
8. Why do you believe that children’s poetry is important?
It is important to language development as things like repetition, rhyming and rhythm are irresistible to a child. Good poetry can inspire, stir emotion, and make us laugh or cry and pause to reflect on life and all its facets. For younger children it can lay the foundation for reading and older children learn how complex thoughts and ideas can be expressed in relatively few words.
Thank you, Ken.
Comments are always welcome!